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By Trishna Buch

Now that Hurricane Harvey is behind us, a lot of families are on the road to recovery. The hurricane caused massive amounts of floodwater to fill the streets and seep into the homes and businesses of countless individuals. Clean-up efforts began immediately after the storm had passed, because people wanted to get back to their homes, lives and routines as quickly as possible.

But the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute—OPEI—wants to urge everyone to keep safety in mind as they go about working on these repairs. It is understandable that you would want to get back to normalcy as soon as possible, but you cannot risk your safety in doing so. Fortunately, OPEI—which is an international trade association that represents manufacturers and suppliers of small engine, utility vehicle and outdoor power equipment—has provided information on the best ways to be safe during this recovery process.

“It is easy for injuries to happen after a storm during the cleanup phase,” Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI said. “People are eager to get things back to normal and are working very hard. You rely on your outdoor power equipment more than ever during an emergency, but you must keep safety in mind and follow all manufacturer’s instructions.”

Kiser also spoke to the several widespread and long term power outages that our state—and Florida, after Hurricane Irma—are facing. Due to these outages, people have turned to using generators so that they have power in their homes, but a lot of people may not be aware of the dangers these products can cause—if not used properly. “It’s is imperative to read your owner’s manual before operating them,” Kiser said. “And never place a generator in your garage or in your home. The generator should be a safe distance from your home as directed by your manual and not near an air intake, like an open window.”

Along with the safety information regarding generators, OPEI has provided information on other ways to maintain safety as you progress in your repairs. Firstly, when it comes to using your outdoor power equipment, you need to carefully study the owner’s manual so that you can operate it correctly and make sure the equipment is in good working order. It is also important to use the equipment when you are calm and clearheaded. During times of disaster, times like Harvey, tensions and emotions will be running high. If you find yourself struggling to keep calm during your recovery efforts, make sure to take a step back, before operating the equipment.

Secondly, it is important that you have the right fuel for your equipment. According to the OPEI, “it is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in outdoor power equipment. If you are using fuel that has been sitting in a gas can for more than 30 days and you cannot get fresh fuel, add fuel stabilizer to it.”

The OPEI also spoke about safety precautions regarding the use of chainsaws; most particularly—chainsaw kickback. According to the OPEI, the best way to avoid this kickback is to “stand with your weight on both feet, and adjust your stance so you are angled away from the blade. Hold the chainsaw with both hands and never over-reach or cut anything above your shoulder height.”

And, when you are working, it is always important to keep an eye out for any people or animals that may be in the vicinity. When you are using pole saws and pruners it is important to maintain a firm footing and keep all bystanders at least 50 feet away from your working area. And be careful when you are driving Utility Type Vehicles. Keep it stable, drive slowly and do not attempt turning while you are on a hill or mid-slope.

Finally, do not attempt to operate any outdoor power equipment when you are fatigued. This could result in extremely dangerous outcomes. Whenever you feel the need, take a break, and come back to the job later.

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